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A concern over inequity and the existence of racial disparity of youth served by the juvenile justice system has long been a topic of considerable interest among scholars, policymakers, and court offi cials. Numerous empirical studies undertaken by academics and various public and private organizations have attempted to shed some light on this phenomenon. Research fi ndings on disproportionate minority contact have hardly been uniform, leaving much of this practice unexplained. This study uses data obtained at the detention decision point over a three-year period examining variance in juvenile case processing related to race. Findings suggest that extra-legal factors influencing the decision to detain vary by race. The absence of informal social control in the lives of Non-White youth in the research population affects the odds of detention at arrest; however informal social control does not influence detention practices of the White population. These findings indicate that the subjective decision of intake officers still partially reflects stereotypical fears associated with minority populations.


Published by Kurtz, Linneman, and Spohn—Racial Disparity at the Detention Decision, Vol. 5 (2), (2008), 140-157